Sunday, June 10, 2012

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

The Dark Inquiry (Lady Julia Grey) by Deanna Raybourn -- Historical Mystery

Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane are adjusting to married life in Town. It is still difficult for these strong willed individuals to come together. To add to the tension, Brisbane has hired Julia's brother Plum to help out on small cases. Julia is learning all she can so that Brisbane will allow her to investigate with him as well. She also has a new hobby suited to her curious nature. Then Julia discovers that her eldest brother Lord Bellmont (Monty) consulted with Brisbane and Brisbane kept the meeting a secret. Julia is worried that Brisbane is in trouble, so while Plum is off investigating the mysterious disappearance of Lord Mortlake's emeralds, Julia dresses in gentleman's clothing and trails Brisbane to the Spirit Club. Brisbane is nowhere to be seen but Julia attends Madame Seraphine's seance anyway. She's intrigued but intellectually knows the lady is a fake. Julia finally finds Brisbane and the pair witness the tragic, untimely death of Madame Seraphine. Brisbane reveals the reason for Bellmont's visit and the intrigue is tied to Madame Seraphine. Julia and Brisbane have to find something important before the family name and the British government are ruined forever. Julia heads off in her reckless fashion while Brisbane grudgingly admires her for discovering information he did not know. The investigation will reveal an espionage plot and show Julia that she isn't prepared for the frightening reality of private inquiry. Most of this book is relationship-driven which I like best about the series. I really enjoyed the first half of the book. There were many light-heated moments that made me laugh out loud. It also finally seemed that Julia and Brisbane talked about their issues and came to an understanding. That really pleased me. Halfway through the mystery picks up and we're back in familiar territory with Julia not having learned anything at all. I was ready to kill Julia myself towards the end for being reckless. By the end of the book Brisbane reveals his true nature and some secrets he's been keeping. He is very much like Heathcliff and Julia admits she was always rather fond of Heathcliff. The mystery is very slow and the big reveal is very random and didn't seem to fit with the rest of the book. I was wrong about the murderer but I did know that a certain person was the key to the story. I think Brisbane, as an experienced inquiry agent would have though of that and known everything already. The mystery's conclusion was heart-stopping and very somber which I did not like. I was not so thrilled with the dark tone of the plot took made me less enthused about this novel than I was at the beginning. Silent on the Moor remains my favorite.

Regency Charade by Margaret Mayhew -- Regency Romance

Katherine Spenser's family has lived at Kielder Castle for 300 years and she's determined that Spensers will live there for 300 more, despite the fact that the old castle is crumbling down around her ears. When a handsome, rakish stranger, Mr. Drew, arrives he brings shocking news. Katherine's recently deceased brother Harry gambled away Kielder and now Mr. Drew is the new owner! Mr. Drew is handsome and charming and has everyone on his side, even Kate's younger brother and her best friend Letty. Katherine is determined to keep Kielder in the family even if it means resorting to dirty tricks.. Her persistent sometimes suitor Vernon disapproves of Kate's methods but the stubborn young woman is a force to be reckoned with. Only Mr. Drew seems to be a match for Kate's wits. This is a comedy of manners in the tradition of Georgette Heyer. The plot moves along at a decent pace, it's a little plodding towards the middle but the humor makes up for it. I really liked Kate and could identify with her loyalty. Her behavior is rather childish but I can't say that if I were her, I wouldn't do the same thing. I felt bad for her because she was a woman in a man's world and was able to use her brain to get what she wanted instead of having hysterics. At first I didn't care for the hero, especially not in the first chapter, but the longer he stayed in Northumberland, the more I liked him. He's a typical Regency sporting hero and a bit underdeveloped but in a book this length he's just fine. The relationship between the main characters develops nicely and ends in a VERY Georgette Heyer manner. The last page could have been written by Miss Heyer. I love the meeting of minds relationships that Miss Heyer was known for so I was happy to come across this novel that I hadn't yet read. It's definitely one of the better copycats and well worth the read. If you can find it, it may even be one for the keeper shelf. 

Song of My Heart by Kim Vogel Sawyer -- Inspirational Historical Romance

When Sadie Wagner receives news from her cousin Sid that his new hometown of Goldtree, Indiana has need of a clerk in a female-owned store and there's also an opera house in need of a singer, it seems like an answer to her prayer. Her beloved Papa is bedridden with an injury and the family needs the money. Sadie is eager to give back to her Papa who has given her so much and use her Fod-given talent for singing to make people happy. She arrives in Goldtree eager and excited to begin a new life and happy to see her old pal Sid. Sid is excited to have Sadie come to Goldtree. He dreams of a future together beyond mere friendship but doesn't know how to express himself easily. Thad McKane has recently been hired as the town sheriff to catch bootleggers. He knows first hand the evils of alcohol, for his father was a drunkard. Thad knows Jesus and knows that as soon as his job in Goldtree is done, he's off to become a preacher to atone for his father's sins. When he meets Sadie, he's instantly smitten with the beautiful, good-hearted girl who is also a friend of Jesus. Sadie enjoys working for the eccentric Baxter twins. At first she loves singing in the underground opera house, eager for the day when Mr. Baxter (brother of the twins) can build a regular opera house. Asa Baxter knows a good thing when he sees it and this young songbird is exactly where he wants her : front and center to distract anyone from anything else he might be up to. When he tells Sadie to learn some new songs for a special male-only night, she feels uncomfortable with the new repertoire. She also doesn't feel right wearing the bawdy dress Mr. Baxter picked out for her, but her family needs the money. If she quits, she'll have to leave Goldtree and leave Thad whom she has grown to love. Soon she finds herself involved in something far greater than she understands and it may jeopardize everything she's every worked for. This sappy, sentimental novel moves very slowly towards a predictable conclusion. The author lets the reader in on the villain's secret right away so there's no suspense until the end when Sadie becomes involved. I guessed the villain even before it was revealed so it made the plot extra tedious. I also guessed at Sid's feelings before they were revealed and as with the villain's plot, the author reveals Sid's feelings early on in the novel. Thad and Sadie's romance develops nicely and sweetly but I found them a bit too sickly sweet. I didn't really like either of them. They're self-righteous and think they know what's best for everyone. I did feel bad for Sadie being in a tough spot. She had a difficult decision and she was too naive to know how to deal with it. The author doesn't say that Kansas was a dry state until after the characters spout their overly moral feelings towards liquor and gambling which completely turned me off, though I am not interested in either of those things. I understand the reasons behind the Nineteenth Century Temperance movement and late in the novel I discovered that the villain is catering to men with addictive personalities so then I understood Sadie's feelings better. I think this book is best for Christians who enjoy sappy Inspirational romances. It is not good enough for someone who merely prefers clean romances. This is the second book by this publisher I have read and likely the last.

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